How to choose a rootstock for a fruit tree


apple rootstocks

Overview of rootstock types for fruit trees and their properties

What is a fruit tree rootstock and why is it used?

Almost every fruit tree consists of a rootstock (the bottom part of the fruit tree with the root system) and the fruiting part of the fruit tree which is grafted onto rootstock and consists of the upper part of the trunk and the crown of the tree. This means that they are genetically different plants united by a graft.

The rootstock mainly influences the growth and health of the fruit tree, as well as the tree's life cycle, including the onset of fruiting and the overall lifespan of the tree.

The fruiting part of the tree is mainly responsible for the appearance and flavor of the fruit. When choosing a variety of fruit tree, it's the upper part we're selecting, but it's important to understand rootstocks as well.

Why do fruit trees need to be grafted onto rootstocks?

If you plant a seed from an apple or any other fruit species, you will grow a hybrid that's unlikely to have the qualities of the variety the seed came from (fruit quality, disease, pest and frost resistance). The fruit from trees grown from seed in this way is usually stunted and of poor quality.

For this reason, it is necessary to graft a bred variety onto a rootstock. The qualities of the bred variety are known, so it's also known that it will produce the desired fruit.

Rootstock types

There are two main types of rootstocks:

  1. Seedling (generative) rootstocks, grown from seed, i.e. seedlings

  2. Clonal (vegetative) rootstocks, propagated from root cuttings of trees bred for this purpose

Seedling rootstock properties:

Vigorous growth (mature trees can reach above 10 m (30 feet) of height and spread

Strong root system, anchoring the plant well in the soil and supplying it with plenty of water

Late onset of fruiting (5-8 years)

High fertility

Hardiness

Longevity (trees often live and bear for more than 100 years)

Lower maintenance requirements

Clonal rootstock properties:

Shorter stature (dwarf to vigorous stature, depending on the type of rootstock)

Weaker root system, which sometimes needs additional support and irrigation

Earlier onset of fruiting (after 2 years for dwarfing rootstocks)

Shorter tree life (tens of years, only approx. 25 years for dwarfing rootstocks)

Require more care (support, irrigation, fertilization)

Genetic uniformity

Mentioned characteristics of clonal rootstocks are applicable especially for dwarfing rootstocks and less for vegetative rootstocks with a more vigorous stature.

Choosing the right rootstock for fruit trees

rootstocks sizes

When choosing the type of rootstock for a fruit tree, you'll want to consider your needs for the tree and how much space you have. Depending on the species, a mature fruit tree with a seedling rootstock can grow up to 10 m (30 feet) or more in height and width. For example, a sweet cherry on a wild cherry rootstock can grow up to 10 m (30 feet) and a walnut up to 15 m (45 feet). Such a fruit tree can produce up to 100 kg (220 lb) of fruit per season, but harvesting and pruning of tall trees is more difficult, and it's a huge amount of fruit to use.

Fruit trees with a shorter stature are therefore more suitable for smaller gardens, because several trees of different species and varieties can be planted in a smaller area. By combining early and late varieties and different types of fruit trees, you can also schedule the ripening of different types of fruit throughout the season.

Overview of rootstock properties

1. Rootstocks for apple trees

1.1. Clonal apple rootstocks

M27 – extremely dwarfing rootstock (40% weaker growth in comparison to M9) growing up to 1.5 – 2 m (5 - 6 feet). Suitable to fertile soils. M 27 is precocious and productive however it requires permanent tree support, intensive fertilization and irrigation. This clonal rootstock is highly susceptible to fire blight but fairly resistant to crown and root rot.

J-TE-G – extremely dwarfing rootstock (30% weaker growth in comparison to M9) growing up to 1.5 – 2.2 m (5 - 7 feet). This rootstock requires permanent tree support, intensive fertilization and irrigation. It can bear fruit in the second year already and its productive.

M9 – Most used rootstock for apple trees worldwide. M9 is a dwarfing rootstock (growing up to 1.5 – 2.5 m (5 - 8 feet).  This well-known rootstock brings early and regular yields, as well as good fruit quality. M9 is suitable to good quality soils and it requires permanent tree support, intensive fertilization, mulch and irrigation. This clonal rootstock is fairly resistant to viral and bacterial infections. M9 rootstock is usable in small gardens but it is widely used also in orchards with intensive care. Winter frost resistance is weaker. There are many local variants of M9.

J-TE-E – similar to M9 in terms of vigour and productivity.Good winter frost resistance.

MAC 9 – MAC 9 rootstock, also known as Mark rootstock, has been bred using M 9 rootstock. Both have similar vigour and have similar properties. MAC 9 is hardier but older trees on this rootstock are susceptible to root mass proliferation.  

Jork 9 – similar to M9 but it has weaker growth and it is more productive.

P 2 – result of crossing M9 and Common Antonovka apple. It is a productive, cold hardy, dwarfing rootstock, with slightly smaller growth than M 9. It is susceptible to fire blight, and wooly apple aphid, but fairly resistant to crown and root rot.

M 26 – this semi-dwarf rootstock is more vigorous than M 9 (2.5-3.5 m /8 – 12 feet). It is precocious and very productive, produces many burrknots, and is susceptible to crown rot and fire blight. M26 rootstocks have good frost resistance and require tree support.

V 1 – is similar in vigor to M 26 and it produces slightly higher yield. It is more cold hardy and more resistant to fireblight than M 26. V 1 rootstocks have excellent tree survival rate.

P-14 - slightly more vigorous than M26 rootstock, but produces higher yield and good quality fruit. P-14 roodstocks are cold hardy, no-suckering, have few burrknots and are more resistant to fireblight.

MM106 – this widely used rootstock with medium vigor (4-5 m/12-15 feet) is precocious and productive. It doesn’t need permanent support however it is susceptible to crown and root rot, fire blight and tomato ring spot virus so it should not be grown in wet soils.

M4 – is similar to MM106 in terms of vigor (4-5 m /12-15 feet) and productivity. M4 has shallow root system, so it often needs support to prevent leaning. M4 is resistant to collar rot. This rootstock is suitable in combination with less vigorous apple varieties.

MM116 – this type of rootstock has similar vigour with MM106 (4-5 m/12-15 feet), but has improved resistance to callar rot, mildew and higher yields.

MM111 – apple trees grafted on this rootstock grow up to 20 feet so it is more suitable to larger gardens. It is resistant to wooly apple aphid and is tolerant to fire blight and crown and root rot. It has good winter hardiness and it doesn’t need support due to solid root system. MM111 is highly productive too.

M25 – grows in full size apple trees (6 – 9 m/20 – 30 feet tall) so it is a good choice for old-fashioned traditional orchards, as well as locations with poor soils. It is cold hardy and does not require special care.

A2– vigorous growth (6 – 9 m/20 – 30 feet tall) and high productivity. This rootstock is very hardy and suitable also to low quality soils. Good choice for extensive orchards with low care requirements.  

Other used clonal rootstocks for apple trees:

Extreme dwarf rootstocks: P 22

Dwarf rootstocks: P 60, Ottawa 3, Bud 9, Bud 10, G 11, G 16, G 41, J-TE-F, Oltem, Supporter, J-OH-18 

Semi-dwarf rootstocks: Vineland 1, Vineland 2, G 65, G 935, J-TE-H

Semi-vigorous: M 7, G 30, G 210, G 890, G 969, Pi 80, M 2, J-TE-C

Vigorous: P 18, Bud 118

1.2. Seedling rootstocks for apple trees

Malus domestica rootstock seedlings:

Antonovka – extremely vigorous growth (7 – 11 m/25 – 35 feet), often creates suckers, hardy to USDA 3, adaptability to various soil types, Drought tolerant, long-lived

Dolgo – vigorous growth (6 – 9 m/20 – 30 feet), less suckering, hardy to USDA 3, adaptability to various soil types, Drought tolerant, long-lived

Ranetka – extremely vigorous growth (7 – 11 m/25 – 35 feet), hardy to USDA 2, adaptability to various soil types, Drought tolerant, long-lived

J-KL-series – vigorous growth (9 m/30 feet), hardy to USDA 3, fairly resistant to disseases, suitable also to higher altitudes and infertile soils, Drought tolerant, long-lived 

Other malus domestica apple seedling rootstocks: Selkirk, J-TE-1, J-TE-2, Bittenfelder, Borowinka, Columbiana, Wien

Crab apple (wild malus domestica) – vigorous and healthy growth, hardiness to USDA 3, smaller fruit

Mallus baccata - extremely hardy to USDA 2, compatible only with hardy apple varieties

Apple varieties grafted onto all these generative rootstocks are known for vigorous growth, hardiness and longevity. However, vegetative rootstocks predominate, because they are more useful in smaller gardens and orchards. 

2. Rootstocks for pear trees

2.1. Clonal rootstocks for pears

Quince C – semi-dwarf rootstock (2-3 m/6 – 10 feet tall trees) with early production of fruit (in third year). Suitable for orchards or small gardens – it can be easily picked from the ground. Tolerates average quality soils.

Quince Eline – similar vigour and productivity to Quince C, but it has improved cold-hardiness

Quince A – more vigorous than quince C (3-4.5 m/10 – 15 feet).  Quince A needs well-drained soils and is more sensitive to hard winter frosts. This rootstock is compatible with most pear varieties.

OHF 333 -  this pear tree rootstock has semi-vigorous growth (3.5 - 5m/12 – 16 feet) and is known by high yield efficiency and moderate resistance to fire blight, collar rot and woolly pear aphids. It is compatible with most pear varieties. 

FOX 11 – similar in terms of vigour to OHF 333 (3.5 - 5m/12 – 16 feet). This pear tree rootstock promotes good health of the trees, which leads to excellent yield performance and fruit quality at the most diverse locations. Fox 11 can adapt to various soil types including lime soils.

Other clonal rootstocks used for pear trees:

Semi-dwarf rootstocks: Pi-BU 3, QR517/9, QR719-3, Quince EMA, Quince BA29, Quince EMC, Quince EMH, Quince C132, Sydo Quince

Semi-vigorous: Fox 9, Fox 16, Horner 10, OHF 40, OHF 51, OHF 69, OHF 87, Pi-BU 2, Pyro 2-33, Pyrodwarf

Vigorous: OHF 97, BM 2000

2.2. Seedling rootstocks for pear trees

Bartlett seedling - vigorous growth (6 – 9 m/20 – 30 feet), hardy to USDA 4, adaptability to various soil types, drought tolerant, long-lived, susceptible to fireblight

Pyrus betulifolia seedling – extremely vigorous growth (7 – 12 m/25 – 40 feet), often used for asian pears which are not so vigorous, hardy to USDA 5, adaptability to various soil types, good fireblight and crown gall resistance, drought tolerant, long-lived

Oder generative rootstocsk for pears: Wild pear (pyrus communis), Winter nelis, H-TE-1, H-TE-2, H-BO-1 and others

It is common to use generative seedling rootstocks for pear trees

3. Rootstocks for sweet cherry and cherry trees

3.1. Clonal rootstocks for cherries

Gisela 5 – semi-dwarf rootstock (2 - 3 m/6 – 8 feet tall trees) with good resistance to frost, average resistance to chlorosis and root rot. Gisela rootstock is precocious and productive on fertile, irrigated soils. 

Colt – semi-vigorous rootstock (3 - 4m/10 – 13 feet tall trees) with good adaptability to heavy and wet soils. Colt rootstock promotes high yields and good fruit quality. Colt is not drought-resistant and should not be combined with early or not productive varieties.

Gisela 6 - semi-vigorous rootstock (3 - 4m/9 – 12 feet tall trees), promoting high yields. It is precocious and has good tolerance to crown gall and viral infections. Gisela 6 is suitable especially to deep, irrigated soils and even for heavy soils.

Krymsk 5 – similar to Gisela 6 in terms of vigour, with slightly less precocity and yield. Krymsk 5 rootstock is adaptable to various soil types and has excellent cold-hardiness and heat tolerance. This rootstock has solid root system promoting good tree health.

Other clonal rootstocks used for cherry trees:

Semi-dwarf rootstocks: Gisela 3, Krymsk 6, P-HL-C, Gisela 7, Victor, Weigi 2, Weiroot 154, Weiroot 158 

Semi-vigorous: Gisela 12, Gisela 13, P-HL-A, CAB-11E, CAB-6P, Damil, Ergevar, Krymsk 7, Monrepos, Performer, PIKU 1, PIKU 4, Maxma Delbart, Weigi 1, Weigi 3, Weiroot 10, Weiroot 13

Vigorous: Bogdany, P-HL-B, Magyar, PIKU 3, Saint Lucie 64, Stallion, Stockton Morello, Adara

3.2. Seedling cherry rootstocks

wild cherry (Prunus avium) – extremely vigorous growth (7 – 12 m/25 – 40 feet)

Mahaleb – vigorous growth (4 - 6 m/14 – 20 feet), suitable for well drained, dry soils (Intolerant of wet heavy soils), drought tolerant, resistant to bacterial canker, moderately resistant to crown gall and root-lesion nematode, shows buckskin infection quickly. Very susceptible to Phytophthora crown and root rot.

Mazzard – more vigorous than mahaleb (more than 6 m/20 feet), suitable for wet and heavy soils

Other seedling rootstocks for cherry trees: P-TU-series, MH-KL and others

4. Rootstocks for plum trees

4.1 Vegetative rootstocks for plums

Krymsk 1 (VVA 1) – is a semi-dwarfing rootstock (2 – 3 m/6-10 feet tall trees) used for plums, peaches and apricots. VVA 1 is superior to pixy in terms of fruit quality and cold-hardiness. These rootstocks require good soil conditions, irrigation and support at least for the first 5 years.

Pixy – is a semi-dwarf (2.5-3.5 m/8 – 12 feet) rootstock used for plum trees. Plums grafted on pixy rootstocks are smaller than on St.Julien A and bear fruit earlier (after 2-3 years). Pixy rootstocks require good soil conditions, irrigation and staking at least for the first 4-5 years.

Plumina – semi-dwarfing rootstock is similar to pixy in terms of size and properties. Plumina promotes better fruit size than pixy.

Krymsk 86 – is a semi-vigorous (2.5 -4.5 m/8-16 feet) rootstock used for plums, peaches and almonds. This rootstock has massive root system. Krymsk 86 excels in cold-hardiness, but it is susceptible to root nematodes.

St. Julien A – is a productive, semi-vigorous rootstock (3.5-5 m/12 – 17 feet), most widely used for plum trees. It is compatible with almost all plum, gage and damson varieties and it is also widely used for peaches, nectarines, and apricots. Plums grafted on these rootstocks tend to come into bearing after 3-4 years. St. Julien tolerates various soil types.

Wavit – is a semi-vigorous rootstock, similar to St. Julien A in terms of productivity and fruit size, but with a bit smaller size. Cropping starts in the third year. It is suitable for a wide-range of soil conditions and it is compatible with most plum and apricot varieties. Wawit rootstock can bear fruit after 2-3 years.

Jaspi – is a semi-vigorous rootstock similar to St. Julien A in size and productivity. Jaspi is more tolerant to wet and heavy soils though.

Brompton – is a vigorous (cca. 4.5-6 m/15-20 feet) rootstock used for old-fashioned, tall plum trees. It has good productivity but is not compatible with all plum varieties.

Other clonal rootstocks used for plum trees:

Semi-dwarf rootstocks: Plumiselect

Semi-vigorous: Adaptabil, GF-655/2, Ishtara, Montclar, Julior, Myran, Myruni, Weiwa

Vigorous: Adara, BB 106, Cadaman, Compass, Flordaguard, Okinawa, Viking, Myrobalan 29C, M40, Marianna 26-24, Marianna GF 8-1, Maridon

4.2. Seedling rootstocks for plums

Myrobalan (Prunus cerasifera seedling rootstock) – Vigorous growth 16 – 20 feet (5 - 6 m), suitable for a wide range of soil conditions. Bears fruit after 4-5 years.

Other plum seedling rootsocks: Wangenheim plum seedling, MY-BO-1, MY-KL-A, S-BO-1, Merunke, Green gage (prunus domestica italica) seedling

5. Rootstocks for apricot trees

5.1. Clonal rootstocks for apricots

Krymsk 1 (VVA 1) – is a semi-dwarfing rootstock (2 – 3 m/6 - 10 feet tall trees) used apricot and peach trees, but mainly for plums. VVA 1 is beneficial in terms of fruit quality and cold-hardiness. These rootstocks require good soil conditions, irrigation and support at least for the first 5 years.

Torinel – semi-dwarf rootstock (2.5 - 3.5 m/8 - 12 feet) mainly for apricots, but also for plums. Torinel is similar to St. Julien A in terms of productivity and it tolerates also wet and heavy soils. Torinel promotes later flowering and thus prevents frost demage of the crop. 

Krymsk 86 – is a semi-vigorous (2.5 - 4.5 m/8 - 16 feet) rootstock used for plums, peaches and almonds. This rootstock has massive root system. Krymsk 86 excels in cold-hardiness, but it is susceptible to root nematodes.

St. Julien A – is a productive, semi-vigorous rootstock (3.5 - 5 m/12 – 17 feet), used also for apricot trees. Apricots grafted on these rootstocks tend to come into bearing after 3-4 years. St. Julien tolerates various soil types.

Wavit – is a semi-vigorous rootstock, similar to St. Julien A in terms of productivity and fruit size, but with a bit smaller size. Cropping starts in the third year. It is suitable for a wide-range of soil conditions and compatible with most plum and apricot varieties.

Brompton – is a vigorous (4.5 - 6 m/15 - 20 feet) rootstock used for old-fashioned, tall plum trees. It has good productivity but is not compatible with all plum varieties.

Other clonar rootstocks used for plum trees:

Semi-dwarf rootstocks: Plumiselect

Semi-vigorous: Adaptabil, Apricor, Citation, GF-655/2, Julior, Myran

Vigorous: BB 106, Rubira, Myrobalan 29C, M40, Marianna 26-24, Marianna GF 8-1

5.2. Seedling rootstocks for apricots

APRICOT SEEDLING (Prunus armeniaca) – Vigorous growth with stong roots, suitable for warm, dry locations, with deep and permeable soils. It is susceptible to root mould and Verticillium wilt 

Other seedling rootstocks for apricots: M-LE-1, M-VA-series, plum seedling rootstocks can be also used (greengage, MY-BO-1, S-BO-1)

6. Peach tree rootstocks

6.1. Clonal rootstocks for peaches

Krymsk 1 (VVA 1) – is a semi-dwarfing rootstock (2 – 3 m/6 - 10 feet tall trees) used for plums, peaches and apricots. VVA 1 is superior to most rootstocks in terms of fruit quality and cold-hardiness. These rootstocks require good soil conditions, irrigation and support at least for the first 5 years.

Krymsk 86 – is a semi-vigorous (2.5 -4.5 m/8-16 feet) rootstock used for plums, peaches and almonds. This rootstock has massive root system. Krymsk 86 excels in cold-hardiness, but it is susceptible to root nematodes.

St. Julien A – is a productive, semi-vigorous rootstock (3.5-5 m/12 – 17 feet), most widely used for plum trees but it is also used for peaches, nectarines, and apricots. Peach and nectarine trees grafted on these rootstocks tend to come into bearing after 3-4 years. St. Julien tolerates various soil types.

Wavit – is a semi-vigorous rootstock, similar to St. Julien A in terms of productivity and fruit size, but with a bit smaller size. Cropping starts in the third year. It is suitable for a wide-range of soil conditions. Wavit rootstock can bear fruit after 2-3 years.

Brompton – is a vigorous (cca. 4.5-6 m/15-20 feet) rootstock used for old-fashioned, tall plum and peach trees. It has good productivity.

GF-677 – vigorous rootstock (about 6 m/20 feet) for peaches, almonds and nectarines. This rootstock is very productive and is suitable for extensive growing in poor or calcareous soils, without irrigation. It has an excellent affinity with varieties of peaches, nectarines, almonds and some varieties of plum trees.

Other clonal rootstocks used for peach trees:

Semi-dwarf rootstocks: Plumiselect

Semi-vigorous: Adaptabil, Citation, Controller 5-7, Damas, GF-305, GF-655/2, Hansen 2168, Ishtara, Julior, MP-29, Myran, Syberian C

Vigorous: Controller 8-9, Adara, Atlas, Bayley, BB 106, Bright's Hybrid 5, Cadaman, Compass, Garnem, Myrobalan 29C, Okinawa, Rootpack, Viking, Hiawatha, Maridon

6.2 Seedling rootstocks for peaches

Prunus persica seedling rootstocks:

Guardian - vigorous growth (6 – 8 m/20 – 25 feet), resistant to root-knot nematodes, moderate cold hardiness, longetivity, moderately susceptible to lime soils, not suitable for waterlogged soils

Nemaguard - vigorous growth (6 – 8 m/20 – 25 feet), resistant to root-knot nematodes, poor cold hardiness, not suitable for waterlogged and lime soils

Nemared - vigorous growth (6 – 8 m/20 – 25 feet), resistant to root-knot nematodes, poor to fair cold hardiness, not suitable for waterlogged and lime soils

Lovell - vigorous growth (6 – 8 m/20 – 25 feet), susceptible to root-knot nematodes, moderate cold hardiness, moderately susceptible to lime soils, not suitable for waterlogged soils

Montclar, B-VA-series and INRA GF 305 - Vigorous growth (6 – 8 m/20 – 25 feet), sensitivity to winter frosts (damage to the roots system), not suitable for waterlogged soils. Poor to fair susceptibility to calcareous soils

BSB 1 - lime compatible, vigorous rootstock. Good tree health and very good yields with good fruit qualities at the same time.

Other peach seedling rootstocks: Lisberian, BD-SU-1, BMVA-series, MN-VS-1

7. Rootstocks for walnut trees

7.1.Clonal walnut rootstocks

RX1 – higher resistance to Phytophthora and good survivability. It is an adaptable rootstock with high yield. Shows some evidence of resistance to crown gall.

VX211 – its advantage is its root lesion nematode tolerance and vigour. This rootstock has also moderate resistance to Phytophthora and good survivabillity.

Vlach - a clonal paradox rootstock, (J.hindsii x J.regia) ​

Other clonal rootsocks for walnut trees: Grizzly, Burbank, Clonal paradox

7.2. Seedling walnut rootstocks

English walnut seedling rootstocks (Juglans regia)

Paradox hybrid seedling ((Juglans microcarpa x Juglans regia).)

Black walnut seedling (Juglans nigra) – suitable to drier, warmer and more calcareous soils

8. Rootstocks for hazelnut trees

Turkish filbert seedling (Corylus colurna) rootstock – non-suckering

Clonal hazelnut rootstocks: Dundee, Newberg

 

Related themes:

1. Find out How to plant a fruit tree in six easy steps

2. Find more about How to choose and grow columnar fruit trees



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